07 August 2008

"how are you?"

One of the best things about being back home is the change in the value people place on their relationships. People shamelessly want to spend time with each other. Nobody here chooses "maybe attending" (fuck you facebook). Everyone is in everyone else's space all the time. Yes, it's somewhat invasive. Yes, it's dramatic, but in my community, we genuinely care about each other and get to know our neighbors.

No one rushes in Masset. A quick trip to the store for milk can easily turn in to an hour-long chat. People choose to spend time together on a whim. Dropping by unannounced produces no discomfort for anyone involved. I feel like when someone stops me in the street and asks me how I'm doing, whatever I answer actually matters.

At work, however, things are entirely different. I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up but I do know that whatever I end up doing, I won't do it wearing a name tag. I work a relatively menial job that requires a lot of interaction with the general public. Consequently, this means that I get asked "How are you?" about once every 3 minutes, but this time no one cares about the answers. Every time I respond, "I'm fine thank-you, how are you doing?" but feel silly doing so because I don't really care what they answer either. It's a waste of time and energy. I wondered recently what would happen if I started questions I actually wanted to hear answers to.

Do you feel like you're part of a community?
Can you tell my why you're monogamous?
Do you like your siblings?
Are your parents still alive?
What has made you happy today?
What can you be passionate about, more than anything in the world?

I doubt I'd get any responses and the credit union isn't the best place for a nice chat so instead, can I please ask one thing of you? Please only ask "how are you?" or "how's it going" if you care what the answers are. I'll try my best to do the same. Deal?


Sunshine said...

Oh don't even get me started on monogamy =)

I disagree with you though, on the idea that pleasantries, even superficial ones, between employees are useless. I think you might miss it if you were to work in an outwardly hostile environment. I know of a researcher who hates working in her lab because the graduate students in said lab can't even communicate with her on a very basic level. She happens to miss even the basics of civilised communication, the "good mornings" and 'how are yous"...

leigh-anne said...

Heh, I'd frame the question that way/ask people it applied to because I can already think of lots of reasons to not be monogamous. Perhaps I'll get you started the next time I see you in person. Instead of saying "Hi Sonja! How are you?" I will say "Hi Sonja! Tell me what you think about monogamy." And then we'll have a meaningful conversation and skip right past the pleasantries. :P

It'd be nice to to skip right to something that both people in a conversation care about, but, yeah, you can't really do that with people you don't know. So I see what you mean since sometimes all you really need is verbal acknowledgment.

I genuinely do like social niceties sometimes. I love asking a certain friend how she is because she gives interesting and thoughtful responses every time. I've also worked with a certain fantastic coworker who wished you good morning in such a way that it felt like she really, really hoped it would be a good morning. In both of those cases, it didn't seem like mere ritual. But then, with neither of those people did I need ritual pleasantries to feel more comfortable.